NASA's mini Mars helicopter called Ingenuity is almost ready to make its historic flight on another planet.
Farah Alibay and Timothy Canham, lead engineers of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory team in charge of the Ingenuity mission, reported on Friday they had completed final reviews of the systems that link the rotorcraft to the Perseverance rover. For the time being, Ingenuity is still tied to the Perseverance rover's belly.
Perseverance dropped the debris shield that covered Ingenuity during the rover's spectacular Feb. 18 landing on the floor of Jezero Crater at the weekend. According to Space.com, the move helps pave the way for Ingenuity's test flights, which may take place as early as the first week of April.
JPL had previously announced it had chosen the flight zone in which to deploy Ingenuity.
If Ingenuity survives the cold Martian nights, where temperatures drop to minus 90 degrees Celsius, the mission team will attempt the first flight of an aircraft on another planet by April 18.
The helicopter is designed to draw energy from the sun through solar panels, which charge the helicopter's battery to ensure it survives the frigid Martian temperatures and stays warm. On the first flight, Ingenuity will rise to an altitude of around 10 feet (3 meters) above the ground. It will hover there for about 20 seconds.
According to an earlier NASA statement, a successful attempt to take off and hover on its first flight would achieve 90% of the project's key goals. If Ingenuity successfully lands and remains functional, the agency may send four successors, "each building on the success of the last." These descendants of the Ingenuity rotorcraft may add an aerial dimension to Mars exploration.
Ingenuity, a small rotorcraft weighing less than 4 lbs. (1.8 kilograms), was named after Alabama student Vaneeza Rupani won a NASA naming contest. The agency launched it on board the Perseverance rover in July 2020 as part of the Mars 2020 mission.